The Wall: Sam Barnett asks ‘Will Publicis and Omnicom tie the knot Before Midnight?’

It’s been quite the month for American/French relations. Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke have been reunited in Richard Linklater’s third instalment of the Before Sunset series (pictured), and Omnicom and Publicis have confirmed a merger which will create the large advertising, communications and marketing services agency in the world.

The new company, imaginatively named Publicis Omnicom Group (no ‘e’) will have a combined market cap of over $30bn, generating total revenues of over $23bn. It is to be led by industry heavyweights Maurice Levy and John Wren, who have notched up a total of 42 years as CEOs of Publicis and Omnicom respectively.

This is the beginning of a long and arduous journey for the two firms as they begin a lengthy restructuring phase to work on ‘future scalability’ and align ‘internal synergies’ – also known as thrashing out a new company culture and firing anyone who doesn’t fit into the new organisation.

So was the merger really such a good idea? Why now? Continue reading

SOFTLAYER BLOG: Innovation and Entrepreneurship – Transcending Borders

by Jonathan Wisler, General Manager EMEA at SoftLayer Technologies

‘Earlier this year, I presented with Struq CTO Aaron McKee during the TFM&A (Technology For Marketing and Advertising) show in London about how cloud computing helps their product improve online customer dialogue, and I was stunned by how uniquely and efficiently they were able to leverage the cloud to deliver meaningful, accurate results to their customers. Their technology profiles customers, matches them to desired brands, checks media relevance and submits an ad unit target price to auction. If there is a match, Struq then serves a hyper-relevant message to that customer. And all of that in about 25 milliseconds and is happening at scale (over two billion transactions per day). Continue reading

Real Business: Sam Barnett’s Tale of Corruption, Voodoo, and Hope in Haiti

I spent five days in Haiti and experienced countless shocks, alongside every conceivable emotion: joy; rage; frustration; pride; misery. My first shock was Haiti’s social hierarchy. The women do everything. They raise the children, they work and provide for their families, they cook and clean, and they give money to their husbands.

The Andrew Grene Microfinance project, spear-headed by entrepreneur Tim Perutz, is aimed at helping these women to start and grow businesses. I met some of the women who are involved in the initiative, selling everything from melons to cooked rice and fish. I’ve mentored many entrepreneurs before, in the US & UK, and the entrepreneurs always talk about their growth ambitions, wanting to change the world. It was humbling to hear how these woman just wanted to live a bit longer, to be able to put food on the table and send their children to school. Continue reading

The Guardian: Privacy, cookies and free web content: where do we go from here?

We need the online data industry in order to keep the web free. Rather than strangle the whole system, the focus should be on making ad companies work in an ethical and transparent way.

Back in 1850, a sign was hung outside the Milwaukee Crescent saloon, purveyor of cigars (“segars”), wines and liquors. The announcement read: “A free lunch every day at 11 o’clock will be served up.” Punters would be lured in by the “free” food and buy drinks when they got thirsty. Thus, the well-worn phrase, “There’s no such thing as a free lunch”, was born.  Continue reading

The Wall: Sam Barnett on fatally-flawed attribution models

It’s 2013. Companies like Scanadu are building the real-life medical tricorder once imagined in Star Trek; Virgin Galactic is on the verge of sending people into space for their holidays (beats Magaluf); and my company now makes 3.4 billion real-time decisions every day on the web. An inconceivable feat ten years ago.

And yet, in the digital advertising world, attribution modelling is still stuck in the dark ages. For years, various technology companies and agencies have promised to move away from the ‘last touch’ metric, which attributes a sale or click to the last company to have shown an ad. But ask most firms in the space how they measure attribution and they’ll respond: ‘We have an incredibly sophisticated system for measuring attribution which factors in 100,000 different variables…’ Drill down and what do you find? Last touch, every time. Continue reading

Wired: With Struq, ad-man Sam Barnett knows you intimately

Ex-lawyer Sam Barnett started his personalised advertising start-up Struq with £2,000 – “credit, not cash,” he says. Now the London-based start-up has attracted 350 clients from 19 countries, including Nike, Adidas, Hilton Hotels and Topshop, which want to target their ads at you based on your interests.

Its concept is simple: “Rather than showing an ad for a pair of skinny jeans that would never fit me, Struq tailors the online shop window to advertise products that suit me,” says London-born Barnett, 29.

“I didn’t want online ads to be things that everyone ignores.” Pictured with him are his own preferences – golf, pop art, wine and bespoke suits – as Struq ads would target him. Continue reading

TechWeek Europe: Making Online Adverts Personal

Struq personalises adverts online. It says its mission is to transform adverts from a “generic irrelevant communication”, to a “relevant personalised communication”: exxentially, when you visit a site that it’s working with, you should see adverts that actually match your interests.

As you might expect, that takes a fair amount of technology – processing as much information as quickly as possible, to get the best and most useful match back, in the very short attention time of a person browsing the web.

This is just the kind of thing Aaron McKee, chief technology officer of Struq, likes. Since he entered IT in 1994, he has spent most of his career looking at building systems which, in his words, “make interesting decisions quickly”. Continue reading

TechCityInsider: Struq succeeds by making it personal

In constant search of ‘the perfect ad’, Sam Barnett, founder and CEO of Struq, has developed technology capable of creating tailor-made ads to fit users’ interests. With $8.5m-worth of investment raised in 2012, he’s now set his sights on disrupting Google. As he prepares to do battle, TechCityInsider.net’s Nico Franks spoke to him.

Now, 2008, as we all know, was not exactly the ideal year to start any kind of business – let alone a marketing business. The crash of that year prompted the worst recession in a generation. Yet that’s exactly when Sam Barnett set up online marketing company Struq. “In a recession, marketing budgets are the first thing that get cut,” he says. “I started Struq with no savings, no loan, no investment. So it was extremely tough.”

As a man who claims to work 80 hours a week, it’s clear that he sees hard graft as one of the ways through tough times. “Those times helped build the DNA and the culture and the values of the business. As a team, we always had to deliver,” he says. Continue reading

‘The future of personalized advertising lies in giving marketers control and transparency,’ says Struq CEO Sam Barnett

To date, behavioural retargeting companies have required marketers to play by their rules and operate within their restrictive templates (and I mean more than just their ad creatives). This just won’t cut it anymore. A ‘one size fits all’ approach, which doesn’t reflect marketers’ unique objectives or consider the end customer experience, is not what a marketer wants or needs, and it doesn’t always lead to maximised performance. Continue reading

Struq CEO Sam Barnett discusses the recent $8.5 million fund raise, and the personalised retargeting business going forward

Struq recently raised $8.5 million in a Series A funding round. The round included investment from Reed Elsevier Ventures, Pentech Ventures and Allen & Company LLC. Here Sam Barnett, Struq CEO, discusses the Series A raise as well as an overview of the Struq business going forward.

Congratulations on your series A funding round. What will you be doing with the new fund raise? More product development? Overseas expansion?

We are planning to open a number offices globally to service new demand. This will enable Struq to bring Ad Personalization to advertisers and agency campaigns across the US and Europe. Continue reading

Struq Secures $8.5 Million from Reed Elsevier, Pentech, Allen & CO

The problem with internet advertising – and there are many – is that while there are plenty of users who interact with ads, the hard part is working out which users are actually the most valuable to advertisers. While the advertising industry normally sends one brand message and blasts it out across all channels, Struq, an advertising platform startup, works out which users show behavioral patterns that make them statistically more likely to purchase. But instead of showing them the one brand message it shows video or display ads most likely to chime with that user. To that end it’s attracted the attention of major backers today, with a significant $8.5 million funding round from Reed Elsevier Ventures, Pentech Ventures and Allen & Company LLC. Continue reading

TechCrunch: Struq Secures $8.5 million From Reed Elsevier, Pentech, Allen & Co

The problem with internet advertising – and there are many – is that while there are plenty of users who interact with ads, the hard part is working out which users are actually the most valuable to advertisers. While the advertising industry normally sends one brand message and blasts it out across all channels, Struq, an advertising platform startup, works out which users show behavioral patterns that make them statistically more likely to purchase. But instead of showing them the one brand message it shows video or display ads most likely to chime with that user. To that end it’s attracted the attention of major backers today, with a significant $8.5 million funding round from Reed Elsevier Ventures, Pentech Ventures and Allen & Company LLC. Continue reading

FT: Costing the dream

Struq is a near-perfect lesson in how to launch a company with next to nothing. It is an advertising technology business that personalises online ads – and it was founded by Sam Barnett in April 2008 with just £2,000.

Barnett, a former commercial lawyer, had been paid this sum for drafting a legal contract for AdJug, the online advertising exchange. While it might not have been much – “it wasn’t the best way to start a company”, he laughs – it was enough.

A law degree from Leicester University had initially led him to a position in the legal department of Espotting Media, the pay-per-click advertising pioneer that is now part of Miva. There, his job had involved drafting and reviewing commercial contracts.

After a year, however, Barnett decided that the legal profession was not for him. Advertising held more appeal. “I realised that, if I wanted to be involved in advertising, then it had to be doing something operational. So I began doing business development for Espotting across Europe and then joined AdJug.”

It soon became clear to Barnett that display advertising “was generic, irrelevant communication – someone created a message and then pushed it out to the masses”. He felt the trick was to make that message better and prioritise it – so that the communication became relevant. What it meant in practice was personalising the advert.

How not to serve Steve Jobs a Samsung Galaxy Tab ad

AUGUST 17 2011 LONDON – Struq, the ad personalisation and optimisation platform, announced today the launch of the WHO engine, a core piece of technology able to predict with 80% accuracy the probability of a specific user clicking and buying a product or service through a Struq ad.

The question of frequency capping is becoming increasingly problematic for online advertisers. Successful online advertising requires reach and impact however potential customers can soon begin to feel “stalked” by an ad if it is served repeatedly, especially if it is irrelevant to them. “Stalking” occurs when users are not in market for an advertiser’s services but are served display ads regardless.

Building on the technology that underpins Struq’s Creative Optimisation Engine, the WHO engine is a matrix factorisation algorithm that uses Bayesian filters to process 8.1 billion data points in real time to predict the probability of a user clicking on a Struq ad and buying the product or service. Continue reading